OK, Manipulate Me With Tiny Kisses

>> Monday, April 30, 2007

Elizabeth. She always catches my attention--she's always floating there in the back of my mind. At 3 1/2, she's already an emotional manipulator. She tells me she loves me all the time, kisses my hands, hugs me. She does this when I'm particularly irritated with her, or when she doesn't want to go to bed. She knows that I'm a total sucker for her love. It's very frustrating!

"Ok, goodnight. It's time to go to bed," I say. We're already way into "my time" territory--the time of the evening when I need to do my own thing. "I love you, Mommy," she says, and kisses my hand. And then kisses it again, and again, and again. My resolve weakens, but my need to be on my own is as strong as ever. "Ok, let's go to bed," I persist. Then she hugs my legs. Then my arms, one at a time. Then she wants to kiss my face. "Honey, let's go." This time I physically pick her up and deposit her into the bed. But as I try to stand and walk away, she hangs onto my neck and starts to kiss my face all over. My inner tensions are reaching an all time high. I REALLY want to be on my own, but I also LOVE her attention and sweet kisses.

A friend once told me, in an attempt to be helpful, that when our kids are driving us crazy we should "flash forward 15 years" and then come back to the present. It helps to put our lives into perspective. What seems stressful at the moment most likely will seem humorous in 15 years and it helps to calm us. But when I want to be on my own, and Elizabeth is bombarding me with affection (yes, bombarding), I feel horrible when I flash forward. There will be a day when I will be desperate to have sweet 3-year old Lizzy in my arms and in my house. I will crave those little kisses and I will hate myself for not taking as many as I can. So now I feel guilty and like I'm betraying my future self. But I STILL need to have some alone time. My Future Self has no bearing on my Today Self. The need to be not-needed for an hour is almost unbearable by this point and I'm practically about to cry with inner conflict.

And that's it.

There's no magic formula for how this ends each evening. Sometimes she'll stay in bed. Sometimes she'll get up one, two or three times. She'll want food, water, a book. Mostly she just wants to hang out with me, to see what goes on after the kids go to bed. I don't blame her. It's always something interesting. We watch scary, loud things on TV. We eat cookies on the couch. Last night we were playing with my iPod which is off-limits to her. When she gets up sometimes I'll just give up and stop wanting My Time. Sometimes though, like last night, the need to be alone will be unstoppable and I won't feel at ease until I've had my fill--a good long hour of independence.

And all this causes my heart to break and my soul to cry. Because she is so wonderful. But also because I need to scan through my iPod--alone. I need to work on my play list and not answer a little girl's endless and repetitive questions. I need to zone out on the couch and watch a violent movie--preferably with a lot of curse words.

Anxiety is caused by inner conflict. For me, the conflict isn't between one thing and another. It's between me and me. I am a person divided between My Old Self and My Mother Self. (I suppose my Real Self lies somewhere in the middle.) But there are times, like last night, when those first two bitches really like duke it out. That's when I say "fuck it" and just go to bed early. My Real Self has to conserve energy for the day ahead.

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